Critics accuse district of deception in custodial contracting

Monday, April 26, 2010 at 4:01pm

The deadline for custodial companies to apply to work at Metro Nashville Public Schools has passed, but critics are still crying foul over the district’s hiring process.

Sixteen companies submitted proposals to provide custodial and groundskeeping services at MNPS prior to last Friday’s cut-off date, according to a statement released by school administrators.

The move to outsource the district’s custodial positions has been supported by Director of Schools Jesse Register as a way to save more than $5 million during a tight budget year. These and other cuts are expected to be a part of Mayor Karl Dean’s final budget proposal to be released later this week.

But according to Mark Naccarato of the Service Employees International Union Local 205, which represents custodians at Metro schools, the district has been negotiating with contractors for nearly a year, “even before anybody knew what the revenue picture looked like.”

Emails between school administrators and custodial company leaders, including Knoxville-based GCA Services Group, suggest discussions of outsourcing date back to November 2009, months before Register had proposed his budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

“The whole process has been sort of crooked,” Naccarato said. “Overall, the city needs to look at how we do these kind of deals.”

MNPS spokesperson Olivia Brown downplayed the district’s correspondence with custodial companies as part of a “fact-finding” mission in anticipation that cuts would have to be made because the district had depleted its reserve funds and was still facing a shortfall.

“It takes a lot of work to create a budget proposal,” Brown said. “It’s not just a three-month process ... We’ve been saying since even last year that this year would be a difficult budget if revenues didn’t improve.

“It’s as though they [the SEIU] are trying to make it appear as though there’s something inappropriate, but I think it’s very appropriate to explore and to get information,” Brown added.

But criticism doesn’t end there. Naccarato also alleges that representatives of various custodial companies have essentially infiltrated the hallways of Metro schools in an attempt to sell their proposals to school custodians and staff. 

“We have people in the schools who are telling us that contractors are in the schools and have been for the last two weeks, either taking custodians out to lunch or pitching them on their company,” Naccarato said. “And that’s been going on during TCAP [testing].”

Brown categorically rejected the charge. She said the accusation simply isn’t true.

Over the next month, the district is expected to review and rank the 16 applicants before suggesting a recommendation to the school board at its May 25 meeting.  

9 Comments on this post:

By: myopinion2 on 4/26/10 at 2:08

How will they ever get all of the background checks finished before the "new" custodians start work. We are putting all of our technology and supplies at risk with this plan. We had someone at our school for three years who ate whatever she/he wanted from the refrigerator. Now that might be a problem at every school. When you are paid minimum wage you have to find somewhere to cut your personal budget.

By: pswindle on 4/26/10 at 2:18

It is time for the Mayor and school chief to go. They should not be in a position to teat pople in this way.

By: Mark Naccarato on 4/26/10 at 5:01

"Olivia Brown downplayed the district’s correspondence with custodial companies as part of a 'fact-finding' mission in anticipation that cuts would have to be made because the district had depleted its reserve funds and was still facing a shortfall."

I'm not sure if this was a direct quote from Ms. Brown or if it was paraphrased by the reporter, but I want to set the record straight that the district has NOT "depleted its reserve funds". The district is required by law to keep 4% of their budget in a reserve fund and MNPS does indeed have that right now. In fact, they have more than that and are requesting an additional $12 million to add to the reserve fund for next year. This raises several questions: Why is MNPS asking for an additional $12 million when we already have the legally required amount in the reserve already? Why is MNPS asking for an additional $12 million for the reserve fund when we are in a budget crisis? And why is MNPS asking for an additional $12 million when jobs are on the line and it would only take $5.1 million to save the custodians and groundskeepers jobs?

We should be asking ourselves what is more important - protecting some 650 workers jobs and benefits in a tough economy or putting more money into a savings account? And, what is the point of the reserve fund anyway? Isn't it for things like this?

By: idgaf on 4/27/10 at 4:12

Mark if you are right you are right that heads have to roll.

By: michael thomas on 4/27/10 at 6:09

Mark is telling all of you the truth. People watch what happens next, if you noticed serpass is running, he said we did not have a gang problem, Mayor Dean knows it's election time, and he knows it will be close. If he does not win he can say look at the legacy i created. Dr. Register time as director will be coming up soon, and i cannot wait to see the tcap test scores. When Dr. Patterson and Tinnon decided to retire did it ever seem a little funny why the two of them at the same time. Their pay together was $267,844.00 that based on an average lead custodians pay would keep @ 110 to 120 custodians. Now do the math! Call your coucilman and the mayor and the school board and ask for a dismissal of the propose cuts.

By: concernedtaxpayer on 4/27/10 at 10:24

michael thomas:

I think you need to rework you math and maybe use a calculator. $267,844.00 / 110 = $2434.95 per custodian. I believe custodians make quite a bit more than that.

If Dean and his cronies really want to make budget cuts they should start by cutting the Pred's subsidy of $7.7 million. Metro could instead put higher fees on the tickets so taxpayers are not paying. Over half of attendees to these games live outside of Davidson County.

By: michael thomas on 4/28/10 at 5:37

Concernedtaxpayer maybe you need more english classes. What is you math? duh. And no if you go to the data base you can see how much they do make . Check mate.

By: localboy on 4/28/10 at 7:52

concernedtaxpayer swings for the fences...it's in the air...HOME RUN!

By: d4deli on 4/28/10 at 11:08

It will be interesting to see if any janitorial service will be held to the same background checks MNPS currently employs. I am already concerned with some questional moves. Recently, all the perfectly good hand soap dispensers with gel soap were replaced with new foam despensers. Supposedly, the new ones are "green". Of course, all the replaced dispensers were tossed in the trash, so how "green" do you have to be to make up for that? And how many custodian jobs could have been spared with the money that was spent on that? Tisk, tisk. Makes me hang my head in shame.